Vestibular System May Be Key to Sense of Direction The horizontal canals of the vestibular system could play a crucial role in sensing direction, according to new research on mice. The study, led by Dartmouth College psychological and brain sciences professor Jeffrey Taube and published in the Journal of Neuroscience, sheds light on the larger system of brain activity ... Research in Brief
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Research in Brief  |   May 01, 2016
Vestibular System May Be Key to Sense of Direction
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Balance & Balance Disorders / Research in Brief
Research in Brief   |   May 01, 2016
Vestibular System May Be Key to Sense of Direction
The ASHA Leader, May 2016, Vol. 21, 12. doi:10.1044/leader.RIB1.21052016.12
The ASHA Leader, May 2016, Vol. 21, 12. doi:10.1044/leader.RIB1.21052016.12
The horizontal canals of the vestibular system could play a crucial role in sensing direction, according to new research on mice.
The study, led by Dartmouth College psychological and brain sciences professor Jeffrey Taube and published in the Journal of Neuroscience, sheds light on the larger system of brain activity that allows for navigation of an environment. Within the vestibular system, otolith organs and semicircular canals (horizontal, anterior and posterior) provide information about spatial orientation, motion and balance.

The horizontal canals specifically, as opposed to all three semicircular canals, affect this directional sense.

Although previous studies have shown that the vestibular system is critical in head-direction signaling, the authors say this study shows that the horizontal canals specifically, as opposed to all three semicircular canals, affect this directional sense.
The researchers observed mice with a mutant gene that disrupts proper development of a part of the vestibular system that senses rotation in the horizontal plane, finding that these mice had abnormal head direction cells that did not fire directionally.
“Our results suggest that the neural structure for the head direction network remains intact in mutant mice, but the absence of normal horizontal canals results in an inability to control the network properly and brings about an unstable head direction signal,” Taube says.
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May 2016
Volume 21, Issue 5